Art & Florida's Environment
Learning through the arts has significant effects on learning in other domains and provide compelling evidence that student achievement is heightened in an environment with high quality arts education offerings and a school climate supportive of active and productive learning (Champions of Change, 1999). The arts enable teachers to reach students not only on an academic level but also on an socio-emotional level. Thus, learning through the arts does not limit students to the traditional linguistic and logical-mathematical pathways of acquiring knowledge. It holds the potential to combine all of Howard Gardener's Multiple Intelligences and Learning including: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, intrapersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and naturalistic (Gardner, 1983). In addition, by the sharing of art both in practice and appreciation it helps facilitate a connection between teacher and student that may not be found through the pedantic measures of old. Hence, by engaging in the arts both student and teacher can share a holistic aesthetic experience inspiring both student and teacher.
In addition, many middle schoolers who are Special Ed have their social studies and exploratory classes (i.e. art and band) cut to give them more reading instruction. This does a disservice to the kids because it cuts their exposure to cultural appreciation and knowledge. By infusing curriculum into themes discovered though art rather than separate domains the student is exposed to the "bigger" picture of things seeing how all things are intertwined.
This lesson is designed to teach Florida History through the arts, but can be extended to learning about other states as well. You could even have different student groups create murals about other states and compare & contrast them.
Two class periods that may extend if necessary
Look at the photographs by Clyde Butcher. He's an artist who helps us see the incredible beauty hidden in Florida's swamps, rivers, uplands and bays. Clyde is a man who spends his time capturing powerful black and white images of Florida's incredible and varied wilderness for all to see. He is also a man who is also known as the 'Ansel Adams of the Everglades:' Now compare and contrast his photographs of Florida landscapes to Ansel Adams photographs of New Mexico and Yosemite landscapes.
In addition, tell the students about Marjory Stoneman Douglas author of the book The Everglades: River of Grass. She was a writer and environmentalist who fell in love with the Everglades in the early 1900's. Tell how she was instrumental in preserving and protecting the Everglades. Describe how art can educate people to become aware of the world around them and to motive others to preserve and protect the environment. Next have your students pick a local project and take photographs of the nature around them.
Another extension activity could be to have the students read the book Hoot by Carl Hiaasen which is a Newbery Honor Book. This book is also on the suggested reading list for middle schoolers. It is a story about a boy who moves to Florida and finds many intriguing Florida creatures including a potty-trained alligators, burrowing owls, poisonous snakes and a slough of slippery fish. In an interview, Carl Hiaasen said that during his childhood he saw nature disappear to buildings and technology, so Hoot was written to "encourage concern for the environment" The book is about a whole bunch of kids that come together for a cause (i.e. the environment) to make a difference in their community. Have the students retell the story by creating a summary in their own words including pictures of the various scenes in the book. Also, they could create a paper maché owl to as a symbol to represent the book Hoot.
In addition, have the kids visit the web site called Young Friends of the Everglades at and think of ways that they can advocate through the arts to help the environment.
Explore suggested web site: